Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weaving with Ane.

I hear the jostling of the lock to the front gate. And the hum of a familiar tune.

I place it almost immediately - it's the song "White Christmas" and it's from my favorite movie of all time. I am cleaning my dishes after a failed attempt at banana bread and move to get a clear visual of the road. The singer is not Bing Crosby, but Lotu, a spirited 11-year-old. Lotu's grandmother, Ane, is waiting in her white truck to pull into the school compound. The vehicle is old and has the word "Cinderella" scribbled on the back in sloppy handwriting. I'm unsure as to whether or not this is the name of the vehicle or in reference to the driver. The oxidized paint is chipping from the corners of the bed. One of the doors doesn't quite close all the way. The license plate has been painted on, too. After Lotu opens the gate, Ane drives the truck to the center of the school compound. As she puts the automobile into park in front of my door, she turns and looks into my fale (house) and yells "Mandy, eh!"

I make eye contact, smile and shout back "Ane! Fefe hake?" (How are you?)

She grabs a cardboard box from the front seat of the truck and jumps to the ground. Ane is roughly my mother's age (though she looks about 15 years older). She has 11 children and too many grandchildren to count. But she has given up an afternoon of her time to come and teach me how to weave. This is the first time, since arriving in Tonga, that I really feel like I am going to get the opportunity to do some real art and I have been waiting all day for her arrival. She and I unlock my classroom door and get comfortable. I watch as she prepares our weaving space. She unrolls the dried leaves we will be using and uses part of a tin can to cut them into thinner pieces. She then leans in close and I watch as she weaves the first part of what will eventually be a kiekie (my kiekie - a grass belt that I can wear to school when it resumes in January). Ane is patient with me - patient with my weaving skills and patient with my Tongan. She rarely translates what she says into English. Instead she waits for me to understand it based on my current vocabulary. If I still look like a deer caught in headlights, she slows the speed and continues to wait. This makes for a slow conversation, but I don't mind and neither does she. She tells me that I am the fastest palangi (white person) she's ever seen do this and that by the end of our next weaving class I should have a kiekie (though she will take it home and sew the rest herself). I grin. She smiles too. I am happy for her company and am excited for our weekly classes.





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